Government-Backed Tor Project Supports the Strong Encryption DOJ Hates
The name Tor is based on the project's original name, "The Onion Router." Tor uses a secure routing method, which the developers call “Onion Routing” to make it impossible to determine where communications originated. Tor makes it possible to cloak both the content of messages and the location of the person using it. This shows why the Tor Project had a strong incentive to release a statement supporting Apple's position against helping the government circumvent strong encryption for its mobile data services. “The Tor Project exists to provide privacy and anonymity for millions of people, including human rights defenders across the globe whose lives depend on it. The strong encryption built into our software is essential for their safety,” the Tor Project’s official statement in support of Apple said. “In an age when people have so little control over the information recorded about their lives, we believe that their privacy is worth fighting for,” the statement continued. “We therefore stand with Apple to defend strong encryption and to oppose government pressure to weaken it. We will never backdoor our software.”Krauss said that some people think that the Tor software and routing algorithms are full of back doors and that the government can readily break its encryption. She said that this is a common misconception because the Tor Project does use government funding and was created with the help of government agencies. But she noted that the Tor software is entirely open source and that anyone who wishes can download the source code and create their own version of Tor. “There are thousands of people picking at the software every day,” Krauss said. She said that if there were a back door, it would be discovered immediately. Furthermore the Tor browser is being used on a daily basis by companies in the U.S. and elsewhere to protect their intellectual property and by media organizations to protect their sources, she said. The obvious question then is whether DoJ is aware that it’s in the process of shooting its own government in the foot when it rails against encryption. The best answer I can think of is that it must be aware, but it doesn’t care. Remember, this is the same agency that decided to violate existing international treaties and the law of the land in search of its own convenience when it challenged Microsoft. It appears that endangering the lives of thousands of dissidents and human rights activists around the world is not a serious concern compared to the convenience of a few DoJ lawyers.
Krauss noted that Tor is a lifeline for its users as they report on violence by drug cartels in Latin America or dissidents in China, Russia and the Middle East. She said that Tor is vital for their safety and their ability to report on conditions wherever they may be in the world.